How to Redo Your Kitchen on a Budget

If your gas range looks like this, it may be time for an upgrade.
If your gas range looks like this, it may be time for an upgrade.
Simon Weller/Getty Images

What a day. Twelve straight hours at your desk staring at a computer screen leaves you resembling the undead. The subway is unkind in its delays, and you lurch forward toward your apartment. You're tired, hungry and the thought of going into your stale old kitchen to fix dinner irritates you. The pea-green oven, linoleum floor, puce walls and grease-worn cabinets dare you to face them, but you can't. Sounds like Thai takeout again -- one larb gai and a spring roll, please.

If this scenario is familiar, it sounds like you're in need of a kitchen makeover. If you're short on funds and think a redo isn't possible, think again. With some elbow grease, creativity and about $1,000, you can give your kitchen a facelift that'll get you cooking again.

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The National Kitchen and Bath association says the average cost of a new kitchen remodel is $26,000. So we must be crazy to think you can complete a redo for less than $1,000, right? Well, you won't get a designer chef's paradise with granite countertops and chic stainless steel appliances -- but you can certainly go a long way toward improving the look of your kitchen. You'll also have to do most, if not all, of the work yourself, so bust open that dusty toolbox and get ready to feel accomplished and crafty. Hiring contractors or even day laborers can run your bill up in a hurry, so the more you can do yourself, the better.

In this article, we'll give you some clever tips on how you can redo your kitchen for less than $1,000. From lighting and paint to flooring and cabinets, we'll inspire you to use your kitchen again and save a fortune in takeout food.

Appliances, Cabinets and Lights

Stainless steel appliances are all the rage, and you might be able to find them used within your budget.
Stainless steel appliances are all the rage, and you might be able to find them used within your budget.
Inti St. Clair/Getty Images

One of the best ways to improve the look of your kitchen is to make changes to your old appliances. Unfortunately, the popular stainless steel models are out of your price range if your budget is under a grand. But depending on how you want to allocate your finances, you could spend some on a used fridge or range to provide a bit of a modern look. Use community ad listings to find cheap, gently used appliances. Craigslist is a great place to start. If you're persistent, you can find a used stainless refrigerator for less than $500, which would leave you another $500 for some of the other DIY projects we'll talk about next. If you aren't a slave to trends, look for ads for new non-stainless appliances. Stainless is so popular, you'll often find people selling their brand new black or white units on the cheap.

Most appliances can also be refaced for as little as $300 each. Look on the Internet or in your Yellow Pages for appliance refinishing companies and find out what kind of deal they'll give you for multiple units. You may be able to refinish your range and fridge for just half of your budget. Auto body shops will paint your appliance fronts for an updated look, or if you want to go even cheaper, you can buy appliance paint at the hardware store and do it yourself. You can also switch out the worn-out knobs for little money. Contact the manufacturer and see if they sell new hardware for your range. It's amazing what small changes like brand new knobs and handles will do to make your appliances look better.

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Updating your greasy old cabinets is another great way to liven up your kitchen for cheap. If you're good with a utility knife, you can reface them yourself with materials ordered on the Internet or at a home-improvement store. You can also paint them for even less. A little washing, light sanding and a primer coat, and you can be as creative as you want to be -- it won't cost you more than a couple of hundred dollars. Even though you're on a budget, don't go for the cheapest paint available. Kitchen cabinets take a lot of wear and tear from heavy use and fluctuating temperatures, so buying good quality paint is money well spent. Every home-improvement store has discounted paints that customers get mixed, but never pick up. You can find some exceptional deals if you're willing to be flexible with your color palette. For more detail on exactly how to reface or paint your existing cabinets, please read our DIY article How to Resurface Your Cabinets. If you really want to go cheap and use your money elsewhere, try removing the old cabinet doors altogether and go with an open shelf look.

Replacing the hardware on the cabinet doors and drawers is another great way to spruce them up, with or without resurfacing. Take one of the pulls or knobs off and take it with you to your local hardware store to ensure that you get the right size. If you stick with the same size, it's just a matter of grabbing a screwdriver and switching them out. If you find the perfect drawer pulls and they're a different size, just fill the old holes with wood putty and repaint the drawer fronts before drilling the new holes. Hardware can be pricey, but you can also find some bargain pieces that might fit your taste.

In the next section, we'll give you some tips on paint, molding and lighting.

Paint, Molding and Lighting

New lighting can have a dramatic effect on your kitchen.
New lighting can have a dramatic effect on your kitchen.
Alvis Upitis/Getty Images

There's nothing like a fresh coat of paint -- it's a tried and true design axiom for a good reason. If you're looking to redo your kitchen on a budget, this is a good way to start. When deciding on color, don't be afraid to go bold. Adding bright, colorful walls will bring a breath of fresh air to your tired kitchen. Pale yellows and lighter blues are soothing and energizing at the same time. And the best part is, depending on the size of your kitchen, you can most likely buy the paint and supplies for less than $100. If you already have pans, rollers and a drop cloth, even better -- this means more money for other projects. Go with a semi-gloss finish, which is more resistant to cracking, peeling and moisture. Too much of one shade can be overwhelming to the eye, so you should follow the 60-30-10 rule. This means you should have three different shades in your kitchen -- 60 percent one color, with 30 and 10 percent for the other two. Your walls may take up 60 percent, with your cabinets and countertops covering the other 30 and 10 percent [source: HGTV].

Adding molding is another creative way to change the look of your kitchen. Crown molding, decorative trim that goes where your walls meet your ceiling, can give a designer look to an average kitchen. You can do this yourself if you have a miter saw. Miter cuts are diagonal and allow the molding to meet flush at an angle in the corners. If you don't have a miter saw and you're scared off by the $100-$500 price tag, kick it old school and buy a miter box and hand saw for less than $20 or see if you can rent tools from your local home improvement store. Paint the molding before you install it to save time and mess. Fill in the nail holes later with wood putty and some touch-up paint.

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You can also add smaller molding to your cabinets to give them a new look. Plain, flat-front cabinets really benefit from some simple trim pieces lining the edges. To keep within your $1,000 budget, look for discounted trim molding in the throwaway bin at the hardware store. There may also be a discount retailer where you live. These warehouses have everything from windows and doors to molding and cabinets available for 10-40 percent less than you'll pay at the big-box retailers.

Aside from painting, installing new light fixtures may be the easiest way to add personality and pizzazz to your kitchen. Task lighting is very popular and installing inexpensive fluorescent lights under the kitchen cabinet will have a dramatic effect. These lights don't require any wiring -- all you need to do is mount and plug in. If you're set on replacing the overhead lights, that will require a wiring job, and unless you have experience doing so, it's not recommended that you try it yourself. Electricians can cost anywhere from $15-$75 per hour [source: payscale.com]. Look again to Craigslist to find less expensive alternatives like multiskilled handymen. You can find all kinds of helpful services under the "Skilled Labor" heading. Even if you go with a licensed electrician at $40 an hour, wiring some new lights shouldn't take more than a couple of hours and won't chip away too much from your budget.

In the next section, we'll wrap it up with some tips for adding artwork and giving new life to your worn-out floor.

Artwork and Flooring

Adding artwork in your kitchen will add life, color and make your children very happy.
Adding artwork in your kitchen will add life, color and make your children very happy.
Matt Henry Gunther/Getty Images

Artwork is good for any room in your home, including the kitchen. It adds color to walls and a sense of personal style to the décor. Artwork isn't cheap, though, so to stay within your $1,000 budget, you're going to have to think outside the gallery box. Coffee shops and cafes often carry paintings for less than $200. You don't want to overdo it for the kitchen, so one painting that reflects your taste should do. Another option for artwork is a stretched fabric print. There are many arts and crafts Web sites that sell DIY kits, or you can check out a craft store. These kits come with snap-together wood frames with screen-printed designs on fabric that you stretch over the frame and staple. It's an inexpensive alternative to high-priced paintings and will add a lot of character to your space. If you go with fabric, hang it as far away from the range as possible to help preserve it.

If your floors are an issue, you have some options that you can pull off for under $1,000. Are they a linoleum eyesore? You may be able to tile over them. Linoleum isn't easy to tear up, and sometimes the best solution is simply to cover it up. Tile stores have inexpensive options that will look better than that old slick surface you currently have. Ask an employee what sales and close-out specials are going on and see if any of the tile appeals to you. The materials will cost extra money, but you can outfit yourself with spacers, a trowel and grout float for less than $50. Then you need to purchase the tile glue, or mastic, and the grout. Depending on how large your kitchen is and what kind of sales you can find, you can completely redo your floors yourself for less than $500, leaving you with another $500 for your other projects.

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If you think you can't pull off a DIY tile job, don't be so sure. Tiling is all about following the steps. You prepare the floor, spread the tile glue, space and lay the tile, then grout and clean. This is a very rough description of the steps, but that's about all there is to it. For more detailed instruction, drop by a home improvement store and check out the lessons they offer. They'll most likely schedule at least one tiling class per month, as it's a popular DIY project and a great way to save money on labor.

Some other simple and inexpensive things you can do to change your kitchen:

  • Add a tiled backsplash to your countertops.
  • Cover the old countertops with an inexpensive veneer.
  • Add curtains to your windows.
  • Replace the stainless steel sink with a nice porcelain or acrylic unit.
  • Change up your faucet with something new and different.

Do yourself a favor and subscribe to some crafty home-renovation magazines like This Old House and Ready-Made. Both of these have great money-saving tips and DIY projects in each issue. To bring your redo in at less than $1,000, think about these tips and decide which parts of your kitchen would benefit most from a facelift. Then budget out your ideas on paper, mix and match until you have a plan that works for you, and get to work.

For more information about home renovation and DIY projects, please put the hammer down and follow the links on the next page.

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More Great Links

Sources

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  • "Budget Advice for Kitchen Remodels." Better Homes and Gardens, 2008. http://www.bhg.com/bhg/slideshow/slideShow.jsp?slideid=/templatedata/ bhg/slideshow/data/1185288426588.xml
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